Murder trial begins; Higa charged with death of toddler - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Murder trial begins; Higa charged with death of toddler

Kraig Hengst Kraig Hengst
Hansen Kiaha Hansen Kiaha

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Trial began Monday for an Oahu man accused of murdering a toddler by throwing him off a freeway overpass two years ago. The defendant in this high-profile case is asking a judge to decide his fate, instead of 12 people on a jury.

The defense attorney chose not to give an opening statement, but previously suggested that something other than the 29-foot drop from the freeway overpass killed the toddler.

Kraig Hengst says he was working on a moped at his apartment building when he saw Matthew Higa toss something off the freeway overpass across the street.

"It was almost a throw over his shoulder and then what appeared to be the doll in a cartwheel motion spinning in the air," Hengst testified.

Prosecutors say Higa was high on crystal methamphetamine, when he took 23-month-old Cyrus Belt to the Miller Street pedestrian walkway and hurled him onto the H-1 Freeway three stories down.

The defense plans to argue that the boy was already dead when Higa dropped him.

"When you say a toy doll, you're talking about the opposite of a living child basically. Would you agree?" Randy Oyama, defense attorney, asked.

"Yes," Hengst replied.

"You didn't hear any crying at all?" Oyama asked.

"Not that I can recall," Hengst replied.

Hansen Kiaha was driving a two-ton delivery truck filled with furniture and appliances. He says he saw something fall in front of his vehicle on the freeway, but there was no chance to stop.

"I said, no, can not be. It's just a doll," Kiaha testified. "At that time, I felt the thump and then I heard a loud pop."

Mary Susan Arnold, a nurse, was driving behind the truck. She says she pulled over and ran to the toddler.

"He yelled back, 'Is that trash?' and I yelled, 'No, it's a baby. Call 911,'" Arnold testified.

She says there was nothing she could do except hold the child's hand and say a prayer.

"Did you notice anything when you touched the baby?" Peter Carlisle, Honolulu prosecutor, asked.

"Yes, he was warm," Arnold replied through tears.

The defense's theory of how the little boy died should be clearer once it begins presenting its case as early as Thursday.

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